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Gottfried Heinrich STÖLZEL (1690 - 1749): "Quadri di Dresda e Bruxelles"

Epoca Barocca

rec: Nov 14 - 16, 2008, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 777 764-2 (© 2012) (51'09")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Quadro I in F; Quadro II in F; Quadro III in F; Quadro IV in F; Quadro V in F; Quadro VI in F; Quadro VII in F; Quadro VIII in F; Quadro 'Bruxelles' in F

Alessandro Piqué, oboe; Thomas Müller, horn; Verena Schoneweg, violin; Veit Scholz, bassoon; Michael Beringer, harpsichord

Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel could have taken an important place in today's repertoire of baroque music, if more of his output had been preserved. Unfortunately the majority of his compositions has been lost. To a large extent that is the responsibility of Georg Benda, who succeeded him as Kapellmeister at the court Sachsen-Gotha. As his music was considered old-fashioned it was mostly destroyed. Fortunately he had ties to other courts where his musical heritage was treated more carefully. Eight of the nine pieces which are the subject of this dics have been found in the archive of the Dresden court chapel, the remaining quartet is preserved in the library of the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels.

The music in the Dresden archive was largely brought together by Johann Georg Pisendel, the most famous violinist of his time in Germany. The fact that he included these quadri in his collection bears witness to the high esteem in which Stölzel was held. Further evidence of his status is his election in 1739 as a member of the Societät der Musicalischen Wissenschaften of Lorenz Christoph Mizler, who placed him even above Bach in his list of leading German composers. The theorist Johann Mattheson ranked him among the "learned and great masters" of his time. The typification "learned" undoubtledly refers to Stölzel's theoretical writings, of which again some have been lost.

In Stölzel's time the quartet wasn't as common as the trio. It was considered to require a special skill to compose such works. The best-known composer of quartets was Georg Philipp Telemann who was particularly famous for his quadri, as they were commonly called. The scoring of these pieces by Stölzel is remarkable. The horn was mostly used in large-scale works, as it was especially connected to hunting, and some composers, such as Telemann, wrote concertos with solo parts for one or two horns. The instrument seldom appeared in chamber music. As Telemann liked uncommon scorings it doesn't come as a surprise that he included the horn in some sonatas and concerti da camera, but even so these pieces for horn, oboe, violin and bc are quite extraordinary. A theorist like Johann Adolph Scheibe described trumpets and horns as instruments which are only used to increase the splendour of a piece or add some colour.

In the Dresden source these pieces are called 'trios' which can be explained from the fact that the horn is not involved in the slow movements. That was common practice at the time: in solo concertos the horn - or the trumpet - was mostly silent in the slow movement(s). In the fast movements of these quartets the melody instruments are treated on equal footing. They sometimes play together, but all three instruments are given opportunities to shine, with the other two instruments taking a back seat.

These pieces are rather short; the longest takes just under 7 minutes. The structure in three movements reflects the Italian influence. In his early years Stölzel had stayed some time in Italy and met the main composers of his time, such as Gasparini, Vivaldi and Domenico Scarlatti. Stölzel was also a modern composer: he himself indicated that it was his objective "to see the sun of the melody through the black cloud of notes". And his music indeed bears the traces of the galant idiom.

These quartets are highly entertaining; the unusual scoring makes them even more attractive. It was a splendid idea to bring them to our attention. Epoca Barocca, which over the years has come up with various discs of rather uncommon repertoire, has added another fine recording to its discography. The playing is excellent and the interpretations are enthusiastic and passionate.

The disc's short playing time is a little disappointing but should not withhold any music lover from investigating it. Those who have a special interest in the (natural) horn and its repertoire should definitely not miss it.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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